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Well, privacy or copyright. If there’s to be a singularity in the next couple of decades or so, it’s most likely to be one of those.

Warning: Naked singularites; Distorted space-time, black-holes, cosmic string, gravity waves, time dilation For those few of you wondering why futurists are using a physics term, it’s because a singularity is an event beyond which all attempts at prediction fail. All sorts of candidates are commonly dredged up: Intelligent machines, transfer of the human mind, unlimited energy and so forth. Depending on who you listen to, everyone’s got a pet singularity.

I’m expecting privacy or copyright to be the next singularity. Probably copyright, as mundane as it might seem compared to other, more fanciful notions.

In both of these, society is increasingly at odds. On the privacy front, one sector is telling us that privacy is dead – or that it never really existed. On the other hand breaches of that ‘nonexistent’ privacy could attract colossal fines.

Likewise copyright and ownership are pulling in all sorts of directions. Ownership and purchases are increasingly looking like licenses and leasing, DRM systems are becoming increasingly intrusive and obstructive (yet apparently still take less than a day to bypass), while others (eg: Blizzard, Stardock, and Gog.com) consider such protections a losing battle, and are doing very well with their digital goods without it.

And all the while actual legislation and law related to copyright and DRM are heading off in yet another direction; In at least one country, the sales of optical media include a levy which goes paid to certain industry protection groups to offset the cost of unlawful copying. In at least one other, it’s actually unlawful to duplicate optical media even if the content is your own, because it never occurred to lawmakers at the time that that might be a possibility.

We’re increasingly getting towards the point where something has to give, and the system will either be reformed or fracture. Either way, however, which way things are going to break and what world is going to look like after that happens, well it makes a bet on Schrödinger’s cat look like a sure thing.

Copyright’s probably the more fundamental item to our society and industries than privacy, and the effects of change on that are bound to be far-reaching and unpredictable. Hence, it’s a singularity candidate just as good as mechanized immortality, and quite a bit more immediate. Saying that we have any idea what the world is going to look like afterwards is as unlikely as predicting what things would look like after the Berne Convention in 1886.



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